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The second season of the Gfinity Elite Series had its penultimate day of regular season CS:GO action take place on Saturday, with fans looking forward to some juicy grudge matches.
Entertaining local derbies and plenty of surprises made sure the fans weren’t disappointed.
With possibly the most vociferous crowd we’ve had at the Hoyts Gfinity Esports Arena, it was one of the most entertaining days in the esports competition’s short history.
The Melbourne derby was the perfect way to kick the afternoon off, with an undefeated Avant side tackling last season’s champions in Order.
Despite sitting atop the ladder at 3-0, question marks aplenty still hung over Avant given they’d been pushed to 16-13 scores by both Brisbane and Sydney Roar.
Fortunately, the return of Order’s rarely-seen top team made sure we’d have answers as to Avant’s legitimacy one way or another.
Forced to play on Nuke – a far cry from their preferred map Mirage – Avant would have earned some respect with a strong performance as the terrorists on a map that favours the CT side extremely.
Despite heading into the break down only 6-9 – and winning the first two second-half maps as the CTs – they fell away badly after that to lose their first match of the season, 16-8.
As much as the score made it look like a one-sided Order win, Avant definitely had the upper hand for a good stretch of the first half.
Order’s superior mechanical skill shone through very early, but Avant put on the brakes, played with extreme patience and discipline and forced their rivals to make the first move.
That cagey play worked very well for a time, making it one of the first instances Order’s top team had been forced to respect their Gfinity opposition.
But, once they strayed from that strategy, they strayed from success. Their own impatience proved extremely costly, as did an inability to turn things around mid-round.
They’re still one of the top teams at the Elite Series but, if you were searching for a true contender to Ground Zero, you’d still be looking.
Order, as expected, are still unbeatable with their top line-up but, with reports that line-up won’t be available for playoffs, wins like these won’t mean a whole lot.
Ground Zero and Brisbane took to the stage next and, surprisingly, that was the match that generated the most electricity in the crowd.
After Ground Zero cut Order to ribbons a week prior, many pundits thought it possible for that feat to be repeated against the winless Deceptors.
But Brisbane came to play, taking five of the first six rounds – including the first four in a row – in a blistering start that had everyone rubbing their eyes.
Ground Zero were able to steady, however, before going on a devastating six-round winning streak either side of half-time to take an 11-6 lead.
The Deceptors traded rounds for much of the second half but, in the end, Perth’s brilliance shone through in a 16-8 victory.
It’s hard to be too down on Brisbane despite the game getting away from them. Perth’s top line-up had only lost two rounds (not matches, rounds) prior to this match, so taking eight off them is an achievement in itself.
But that’s been the story of the Deceptors – who now fall to 0-4 – all season. It was, once again, another case of mental lapses that cost them the match.
The aforementioned six-game loing streak between rounds 12 and 17 was back-breaking, with two separate four-round slides made the hill steeper.
Ground Zero were surprisingly timid early, although captain Nikkez claimed after the match they didn’t want to show off their full hand of strategies. I wouldn’t be worried if I was a Perth fan.
It was then up to the Sydneysiders to take us home, with the Roar and Chiefs taking the stage in a do-or-die matchup for both sides.
The Roar started out the better side, winning five of the first seven rounds and surviving a mini-Chiefs rally to take a commanding 10-5 lead at the half – very impressive for the T-side on Train.
But, like Avant before them, they couldn’t convert a surprisingly strong first half into a win. Chiefs dug deep when they needed to, with a seven-round winning streak between rounds 20 and 26 powering them to a hard-fought 16-13 victory.
Like in previous weeks, there were very encouraging signs from some of the Roar’s emerging players in Zemp and Zorbot, while topguN’s leadership – both in the game and on the stage – were inspiring to watch.
What really let them down from round-to-round, however, was a tendency to almost play too patiently.
They repeatedly had bomb sites or crucial map points scoped out, but were reluctant to make the first move. Sometimes, no information is information, but instead, the Roar sat back and let their opponents rotate or initiate as they pleased.
The Chiefs are 2-2 and, given they’ll likely face off against Order’s reserves next week, should be a lock for finals. They still definitely haven’t found their rhythm, but could be dark horse with a clean slate in the playoffs.
The Roar, on the other hand, look all but done for this season. That said, they appeared to be done and dusted last season too, only for miraculous results elsewhere helping them storm back.
Could the same happen again?
Next week – the final week of the competition before finals – pits arch rivals Chiefs and Order against one another, while we’ll also be treated to a top-of-the-table clash between Ground Zero and Avant.
Who do you think is on track for finals?